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A Reconfiguration of Everything That Already Exists: Bureaucratic Politics and the Quadrennial Defense Review

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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has made several attempts to re-fashion its armed forces for the post-Cold War world. The most recent effort, called the Quadrennial Defense Review QDR, was a study that started with high hopes. Last year then-Deputy Secretary of Defense John White called the QDR an opportunity to analyze what we do, why we do it, how we do it, and how we pay for it. Another official boasted that the survey would put everything on the table, including Army, Navy, and Air Force budget shares and de-emphasize the goal of fighting two nearly simultaneous regional wars. In the end. the QDR fell short of those mark. A forecast that the revue would simply be a reconfiguration of everything that already exists proved a more accurate assessment than the lofty rhetoric of defense officials. Why did the QDR fall to meet its goals There was probably little hope that the study would ever match the radical expectations espoused by some. Those statements reflect an assumption that the study would be carried out in a rational process, unsullied by organizational politics and pressures. While there were many agencies and personalties that affected the QDR in some way, it was the actions of the Army, Navy, and Air Force that played the major roles in shaping the final report. Understanding the outcome of the QDR must begin by examining how the services practiced bureaucratic politics.

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  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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